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E-books in, campus library out

Te Wananga o Aotearoa Whirikoka campus students are fighting an executive decision to close the library, effective from today.

A petition calling for the library to be kept open was organised by tauira (students) at the Gisborne campus.

As of yesterday, it had gained more than 150 signatures.

However, TWOA tauira services executive director Hone Paul says it does not make sense to hold a physical collection of books which “might hardly ever” be issued to tauira.

Mr Paul says there has been a 70 percent decline in the number of physical books loans at the campus library since 2019.

“This is due partly to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw our campuses close for a few weeks, but is mainly a result of the change in the types of programmes that our tauira are now studying at Whirikoka.

“Additionally, we rolled out a new e-book platform that has resulted in lower demand for physical books.”

TWOA student Rawiri Gilgen informed The Gisborne Herald about this decision after a notice was sent out via an email on May 21 to kaimahi (workers), which said the Te Pataka Maramatanga library service would close in June.

Mr Gilgen was concerned at what impact this would have on tauira.

It was not just about students having access to physical books. Some students used the space to do their mahi (work), he said.

Mr Gilgen spoke to a crowd of similarly concerned tauira the following week and a decision was made to form the Tauira Action Committee to respond to the situation.

“The urgency of addressing this matter necessitated a rapid response,” Mr Gilgen said.

“I feel sick about this. It's a tangi. First I was shocked to see the email about it closing, now I am saddened about it,” he said.

Mr Gilgen yesterday collected library books destined to be dumped.

He also prepared a statement setting out the position of the committee on behalf of the stakeholding learners.

Moetahi Kennedy was tasked with informing the students and drafted the petition.

Eruera Walker helped with the petition and raised awareness among tauira using the library.

Margaret Goldsmith, tohunga o rongoa Maori (tutor of Maori medicine), offered her tautoko (support) for their cause.

“I would not have been so presumptuous to act without a mandate from those tauira whom I represent,” Mr Gilgen said.

“It's a no-brainer for most thinking people. No library means no legitimacy, which will mean a drop in education quality.”

Mr Paul said the closure meant TWOA had to decide “how best to target and invest their scarce resources into the services we know will be of significant benefit to the tauira on their learning journey”.

An e-book platform was introduced across TWOA in 2020 and had been successful.

“E-book borrowing has increased by 25 percent nationally last year and this trend has continued in 2021,” Mr Paul said.

“The introduction of our e-book platform means our Whirikoka tauira can access an online collection of more than 250,000 books in contrast to a physical collection of just 6500 books in the library.

“It's a free, on-demand service that doesn't require tauira to physically collect or return items,” he said.

The decision was made because the type of programmes tauira were studying at the campus was changing.

“In recent years we have seen community demand shift away from multi-year degree provision — which sometimes requires a physical library on campus — to shorter, one-year certificate and diploma programmes, where course readings and resources are often provided as part of the programme, or are increasingly available online.”

In response to the petition, Mr Paul said it was a difficult decision to close the library.

“We know that decisions like this can impact our tauira and some kaimahi (staff) as well.”

Mr Paul and others from the executive team met with tauira yesterday to listen to their concerns and discuss the changes to the library services.

Students, whanau, teachers and workers all attended the meeting and some streamed in via Skype. “The whanau gave it to them,” he said.

Mr Paul said, “We believe that tauira will not be disadvantaged by this decision, and we will support them to be able to access a greater range of catalogues and books through our ebooks platform and our free door-to-door delivery services from collections across Aotearoa,” Mr Paul said.

“We will also be providing other opportunities for tauira to meet with our students services team, where we can outline digital support services as well as support to access internet and devices.”

DON'T CLOSE IT: Journalist and first-year whakairo student John Woods and Te Wananga o Aotearoa student Rawiri Gilgen are two of the many students who want the library at the Whirikoka campus kept open. They met with the TWOA leadership teams to discuss the matter and a petition was launched to save the library but it does not look like the decision will be changed. Picture by Paul Rickard